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Brainerd School Board: Finance Commitee takes a look at moving the Paul Bunyan Educational Cooperative to the next stage

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Acting as the fiscal host of the Paul Bunyan Educational Cooperative (PBEC) for the past five years, Director of Business Services Steve Lund said its time to take the co-op to the next level.

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“After reviewing finances and services delivered in the (PBEC) organization, we wanted to see if this relationship (between the district and organization) was cost effective and effective to our students,” said Lund. “And we came to the conclusion that it is both.”

Lund presented to the finance committee Thursday afternoon a proposed agreement that would turn the PBEC into a formal special educational district. Presently there are six member school districts that make up the PBEC, including Aitkin, Pillager, Brainerd, Crosby/Ironton, Pequot Lakes, Pine River/Backus with Brainerd acting as the fiscal host in the group. The PBEC also provides services to Crosslake, Pillager and Montessori. The agreement would keep the Brainerd School District — the district with the majority of co-op students, accounting for 53.45 percent in the 2012-13 school year — as the fiscal host and would in turn be recognized by the state of Minnesota and federal education as a special education district.

Because of the larger share that Brainerd has in the co-op, board member Chris Robinson had some concerns about how that would affect the breakdown of collective net costs in comparison to the other school districts involved in the co-op. Lund agreed that it is a valid concern and will be further discussed and explained at the next school board meeting, Nov. 13.

Lund added that many of the same main points currently being carried out through the co-op would remain the same, “still capturing the continued cooperative intent.”

One change to the current PBEC Lund said would be the requirement of a new board to be formed, along with an audit done separately from that of the Brainerd School District. Currently with Brainerd as the fiscal host of the PBEC the audit is done with the Brainerd School District’s.

Lund said that they would like to move forward with the conversion to a formal educational district beginning January 2013, with a target of fully operating by July 1, 2013.

The proposed agreement will be brought to the board Nov. 13 for approval.

Lund also presented this fall’s enrollment, comparing it to the projections.

This school year’s fall count totaled 6,552 in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, a difference of three from the projected of 6,555. Lund said the biggest differences were between projected and actual numbers were seen in kindergarten, with a projected enrollment of 425 and an actual of 398. Those numbers were made up in grades 3 and 5 where there were more kids than projected. In third grade 492 students were counted for compared to the 476 projected and in fifth grade 505 compared to the projected 492.

“You know for a fact that we will wake up next year and have to plan,” said Lund. “It’s how we manage expenses and planning on how to balance our employees and if these trends stay as they are what that will mean.”

Lund added that while historically the district has seen a slight decline in enrollment over the years, it’s predicted that by 2015-16 and 2016-17 schools years they will even out.

The committee also heard a review of the district’s most recent audit with auditor Tom Koop presenting the findings.

Overall, Koop said that in summary, the district received a clean and complete audit.

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or jessi.pierce@brainerddispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jessi_pierce (@jessi_pierce).

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Jessi Pierce
Born: 9/28/1987 (age 24) High School: Mahtomedi High School (home of the Zephyrs) in Mahtomedi, Minn. College: Journalism and Mass Communications degree from Iowa State University (Class 2010) Passions: Sharing the story. I love getting to know people, and in particular this town as it is so new to me, and being able to share something about them with the public. That and sports, especially hockey and lacrosse. Follow me on Twitter @jessi_pierce (views on Twitter do not represent that of the Brainerd Dispatch)
(218) 855-5859
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